Thursday, January 14, 2010


A couple weeks before we started farming, my cell phone died and I lost five years' worth of phone numbers. I was peeved. Cell phones were a lot more expensive than they are now, so instead of buying a new one at full price I decided to go without until I was eligible for a free phone. In the meantime, we started farming. It didn't take me long to realize that I didn't need a cell phone anymore. Glen was the person I called the most and now he was working right beside me 24/7. I cancelled my plan (and still had to pay the early termination fee after five years of being a Verizon customer because I'd signed a two-year contract 22 months before). Glen surrendered his phone when he left his position with the Department of Ag as well. So we went from being cellularly tethered to the world, to free (in a nonconformist sort of way) in a matter of weeks.

Honestly, I loved not having a cell phone. I loved not being bothered while I was working. I loved the greater sense of privacy that came with being unconnected. And I loved seeing the look on people's faces when I told them "no, I don't have a cell phone". Our families thought otherwise, but they learned to leave messages the old fashioned way and wait for us to call them back. Besides, if there was a serious urgency, they knew where to find us – in the barn.

Fast forward a couple years to our first year in Melrose. Dan was a couple months old when we hooked up the cattle trailer and traveled up north to bring a load of heifers down. On the way home, the trailer blew a tire on Highway 371 just south of Fort Ripley. Thankfully, my sister was traveling with us and she had a cell phone. The other fortuitous event on the trip was that Glen's brother and his family happened to be driving home from Pine River at the same time. They found us stranded on an approach. Glen and his brother took the car to get the tire fixed (there was no spare). The rest of us – me, Dan, my sister, my eight-months-pregnant sister-in-law, and my twin nieces – piled into the truck with all of our luggage to wait.

To make a long story short, we made it home just fine, albeit a bit later than we expected. One thing was clear, though, by the time we got home: we needed a cell phone. In our cellular society, nobody stops to help stranded motorists anymore because everyone figures everyone else has a cell phone which they've already used to call for help.

So, in the interest of traveling safely with an infant, I got a TracFone. It was a good compromise between being tethered and free. Very few people knew my number and I only used it while traveling.

Then, while we were putting up our second crop of hay this summer, Glen announced after making his seventh trip to the house for a phone call that he needed to get a cell phone before the corn harvest started. Much to his brothers' delight, Glen got a cell phone. (If I had charged his brothers a quarter every time they had told Glen he needed a phone, we could have paid for the first month's service.) We did some figuring and decided that if we cut our long distance usage in half, we could justify the added expense of the cell phone.

The cell phone has definitely saved Glen time and steps. Now, instead of coming to the house to grab a bite to eat, he calls the house and asks if I can bring a sandwich out with me. Or, rather than coming to the door, calls to ask if I could come watch a gate. I found myself calling the cell phone from the house, too. Well, this wasn't helping us reach our goal of less long distance used; in fact, it was costing us double to call each other.

We did some more figuring and now I, too, have a new cell phone. After nearly five years of eschewing the technology, I am once again tethered to the world. I've learned a lot in my five years without a cell phone, though. Like most of our society's conveniences, when used responsibly and in moderation cell phones can indeed make life a little easier. Just don't expect me to answer every time the phone rings.

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